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Champagne alternatives: 22 Crémant d’Alsace wines waiting to be discovered

These traditional-method sparkling wines offer character, complexity and elegance and can represent excellent value for money. Georgina Hindle tastes more than 20 whites and rosés…

Crémant d’Alsace is France’s best-selling AOC sparkling wine after Champagne and it’s easy to see why with both appealing quality and affordability.

Scroll down for 22 Crémant d’Alsace tasting notes and scores

However, because the majority of bottles are consumed domestically – around 90% – only a select few bottles make it onto foreign shelves leaving this region perfect for exploration.

Officially recognised in 1976, the category represents a quarter of Alsace’s total wine production. Made in the same traditional method as Champagne, with the second fermentation in bottle, these wines not only offer complexity but also rounded flavours and fine bubbles.

Grapes grow in slightly drier, warmer and sunnier conditions compared to Champagne, resulting in riper grapes giving dry but lively and fruity wines with a light body, fine mousse and sometimes creamy palate.

Grapes must be hand harvested, usually in advance of neighbouring appellations, and can only be comprised of Pinot Blanc (the dominant varietal), Noir and Gris, together with the related Auxerrois, as well as Chardonnay and Riesling. For rosés, only Pinot Noir is allowed.

  • Pinot Blanc provides freshness, elegance and crispness
  • Riesling adds lively fruit flavours
  • Pinot Gris adds body
  • Chardonnay gives a fine, light touch

Only the first 100l of each 150kg of pressed grapes can be used and wine must be aged for a minimum of nine months on lees imparting a brioche, biscuit or toast characteristic to the dominant orchard fruit flavours.

The majority of production tends to be non-vintage bottlings though some estates produce special vintage, or single-vineyard, cuvées.  The top four wines in this tasting were vintage specific, aged for longer and therefore slightly fuller in body and character. Three in total came from the 2013 vintage, all of which are still showing exceptional freshness proving the ageing capabilities of these wines.

The tasting showcased a range in dryness with many producers favouring extra brut, brut nature or brut zéro styles with little to no sugar added at the point of disgorgement. These allow the soft citrus and apple flavours to shine through while brut styles can impart honeyed lemon and tropical fruit flavours.

A wonderful attribute of Crémant d’Alsace is that they work just as well on their own as with food. A wine perfect to toast and sip at celebrations (serve between 5-7°C) but also fit for brunches, picnics, canapés and alongside fresh fish or cheese dishes.

An all-round quality and affordable option and worth tracking down for individual estates to ship overseas.

22 Crémant d’Alsace wines to try

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